The Project Manager Role Is Being Broken Up

The growth of scaled agile is breaking up the project manager role and the parts are being distributed between other roles, essentially driving out the need for a project manager on most projects.

Have a look at Enterprise SAFE’s glossary, there is no mention of the “Project” word, “Program” is however largely represented. SAFE talks portfolios, programs and teams but not projects.

Why is that?

A project is a temporary endeavour to produce a product or service, in scaled agile (or agile really) there is no such thing, the driving principle is the continuous delivery of value and the responsibility for this is up to agile teams and portfolio management.

The closest role to a project manager role in SAFE is the Release Train Engineer. Even this is more like a programme manager type of role because there is more sense of continuity in a program manager role than in a project manager role.

More of a leader than a manager.

Agile implies self organising team, self-managed at scrum level with the scrum master orchestrating the team. Scaling up and delivery of value often means co-ordinating delivery from several scrums, this is where Release Train Engineers or Agile Program Managers are operating but not in a management role but more in a leadership role because management is done at scrum level.

They are here to coach and help rather than drive the work being performed, they are more focused on the outcomes and on the yearly plan for the program that in individual deliverables.

For project managers of this world this can be very unsettling because they have to learn to outsource direct control on what is being delivered and use more of their soft skills rather than the hard project management skills that they have learned through the years and through traditional project management methodologies or body of knowledges.